Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lesson #43: Easy Come, Easy Go

This year I received a surprise tax refund. I made less than I expected last year, thanks to my brief interlude being self-employed, and was pleasantly surprised to receive tax money back (rather than owe the IRS).

I had the money in my account for 24 hours, and during that time, I wondered aloud what I should spend it on. New furniture? A small vacation? A new camera I have been coveting? I commented to my family that for the first time since I started filing taxes, I didn't need to spend my refund on car repairs.

Then my son, D, came to visit. He drove to my house. It's his first car, one that he scrimped and saved for, and it was the first time he drove it to my house.

Being temporarily financially endowed, I offered to buy him a new set of tires. He was excited by that, so we drove his car to Pep Boys. It died in the parking lot. Two days later, the repair costs and new tires came out to more than $1,000.

He drove away this afternoon, in a nice-running car with tires that actually grip the road rather than slip and slide, and a full tank of gas. I was happy to see him drive away in a safer car.

My bank account is empty again. But my heart is full.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lesson #42: What happens in the cubicle, stays in the cubicle.

I have worked in a number of offices with a variety of coworkers in different fields and even in different states of the union. No matter how different, there is one thing that every office has had in common:

Women who like to comment on what other women are having for lunch.

I would wager money that I could walk into any office anywhere in this country, peel an orange, and some woman is going to say, "I smell an orange! Someone has an orange!" I could microwave salmon, garlic pasta, or sausage spaghetti, and the result would be the same. Someone is going to hunt down "that smell."

What is a polite woman supposed to do in that situation?

Do I confess to being the barer of the smell?
Do I offer to share my meager left-overs?

I have never been good at small talk. And I'm not one of those women who finds it polite to comment on other people's private meals - particularly if they're hunkered down over a Tupperware container in their little cubicle or windowless office. It seems to me that leftovers for lunch are one of those things polite people shouldn't talk about -- like coworkers' salaries and what happens in the ladies room. For many years, I decided the easiest way to avoid this type of thing was to leave the office for lunch.

But I grew tired of being pirated out of my office by overactive nosey noses, so now I embrace the interaction. "Yes, that's my orange. It's a great orange! Do you want a slice?"

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Lesson #41: Keep your eyes open when you ride the rollercoaster.

My youngest biological son, I, turned 13 last year. He's the 5th of our brood of 6 kids to do so.

I know what's coming. Tears. Innapropriate giggling. Long showers. Squeaky speech. Red cheeks. Impulsive stomping and door slamming.

When my oldest, D, turned 13, I really didn't know what I was in for. The first time D wailed and weeped and rolled around on the living room floor extolling how much he HATED his teachers and his counselors and his principal and me and and his father, I was horrified. I tried to reason with him. I tried tough love. I tried soft love and hippy hugs. Finally, I sent him outside and told him to hit the punching bag until he stopped crying.

Then I realized that the D in my living room was not the same sweet little boy I held at my breast so many years before. He was a young man, with all the angst and agony afforded to young men who haven't yet found their inner Swartzenegger. I had to give him time to navigate the hormonal waters of early teen-hood. And in time he found his way.

While it happened, though, I went through my own five-step process of watching the boy-into-man evolution.

1. Shock: "What the hell is going on with D?"
2. Anger: "Quit acting like a baby on crack and go to your room until you can act like a normal human being!"
3. Bargaining: "If you'll quit weeping, I'll make you your favorite peanut butter and jelly with no crusts!"
4. Depression: "I miss my baby D!"
5. Acceptance: "OK, so how many years until college?"

 Now that I've seen the process a few times, I can skip straight to Number 5. Only 5 more years until I goes to college. Really, that's not very long at all. I've decided I'm going to enjoy as much of it as I can, caterwauling, high water bills and all.